Areas on the North Coast


Umhlanga is a residential, commercial and resort town on the north coast of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, created in 2000, which includes the greater Durban area.

Umhlanga Rocks has many luxury hotels and apartments, right on the beach, including the Cabana Beach Hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Umhlanga Sands Hotel and Pearls of Umhlanga apartments. Many of these have views of the landmark lighthouse.

Umhlanga Ridge is a new retail, office and residential node, situated on a hill, overlooking the Indian Ocean. It was largely developed on sugarcane land, by property development company, Moreland Estates, owned by the Tongaat-Hulett sugar group. Located on the ridge, are Gateway Theatre of Shopping and other shopping centres, motor dealerships, a private hospital and many offices.

Umhlanga, together with Umdloti forms the Sugar Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Other places of interest in Umhlanga are the Umhlanga Country Club and Mount Edgecombe Country Club in nearby Mount Edgecombe.


Umhlanga means the place of reeds, in Zulu and is named after the Ohlanga River, which reaches the Indian Ocean three kilometres north of the town. Umhlanga was formed in 1972, through the merger of Umhlanga Rocks, a seaside resort town, and the suburb of La Lucia.

Umhlanga has become the focus of development in the greater Durban area, with many businesses relocating offices from central Durban, because of urban decay, similarly to Sandton forming the new centre of Johannesburg. In line with this, Durban International Airport will move to La Mercy, near Umhlanga, and re-open as King Shaka International Airport, in the near future.


(also known as Umdloti Beach), is a small resort town on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. It is situated at the mouth of the Mdloti River north of Durban and now forms part of eThekwini, the Greater Durban Metropoliton. The name Mdloti is the Zulu word for a species of wild tobacco that grows here.

Umdloti has a permanent population of around 3,000 people, but increases tenfold during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons, much to some local residents annoyance. Much of the Umdloti real estate is owned by non-residents, who let outtheir properties to holiday makers.

Close to major shopping centres, but still a peaceful, small town, Umdloti is split in two levels, by a sand-dune, creating an upper and lower area of the town. A natural rock pool on the beach creates a safe swimming area.

Umdloti is famous for dolphins that swim very close to the beach, early every morning and from July to November is a very good time for Whale watching, when whales can be seen from the beach.


Salt Rock
Ballito is a small holiday town, located in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Ballito is located at 29°32'S, 30°33'E and is about 40 kilometres north of Durban. Dolphins are common on this stretch of the North Coast shoreline, known as the Dolphin Coast.

The town was established in 1964, as a Township, by a group of investors from Glen Anil Investments. The Area was originally a Sugar Cane Farm. The town was named after a pair of Italian Stockings.
Today, Ballito has a thriving community of its own, with ties to primary and high schools in and around Ballito, Umhlanga, Stanger and Tongaat. Ballito is growing exponentially and has 2 huge new malls. It is a fantastic holiday destination, with great hotel and self-catering accommodation, numerous world class swimming and surfing beaches, such as Willard and Boulder beaches. A promenade, about 2.5 kilometres long, along the beach front, allows for walking and jogging.

The word "Ballito", translated from Italian, means "little ball". The Sunday Tribune printed an advert for Ballito Bay, inviting potential investors to the North Coast, with prices of land of about R790.00. By 1964 the zonings for Ballitoville's residential buildings, hotels and a caravan park had already been incorporated into the town plan, known as Compensation Beach and this area stretched out from Willard Beach to Clark Bay, Salmon Bay and Port Zimbali. A brochure with the first marketing pictures of Ballito, was put out to attract the holiday makers to invest in the area with the slogan: "Buy, Build & Play at Ballito Bay".

Ballito, Salt Rock and Shakas Rock are a favourite holiday destinations, for local South Africans and also foreign tourists, on their way up to Zululand and the Battlefields.


Tongaat is a sugarcane growing town, that is situated on the banks of the Tongati River, about 37km north of Durban and 28km south of Stanger. It now forms part of eThekwini, the Greater Durban metropolitan area. It's population is predominantly people of Indian descent.

Aesthetically English colonial, but distinctly cosmopolitan in flavour, Tongaat, part of the Sugar Coast, now supports one of the largest sugar-producing districts in the world.

Tongaat was established in 1945 and its name was corrupted from the river's name, Tongati, the Zulu word for the Strychnos mackenii trees, that flourish on its banks.

The town is the centre for the Tongaat-Hulett Sugar Limited and the Moreland Molasses Companies. Maidstone Sugar Mill, one of the country's first mills, was completed in 1850. Some original sugar-crushing methods are still employed there.

Tongaat also hosts the Tongaat branch of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, founded by Rev John G. Lake in 1908. The Juggernathi Puri Temple, is a national monument and tourist attraction. It was built in 1920 by the late Pandit Sirikishan Maharaj in a North Indian style. The Tongaat South Methodist Church was opened on 26 September 1979. The Sri Siva Soobramaniar Temple, hosts what is arguably South Africa's largest Kavadi Festival, involving some of the oldest religious rituals in recorded history.

Tongaat's Victoria hospital opened in 1987.

Things to do include Crocodile Creek, a crocodile farm where feedings can be viewed. Many scenic drives in the area, are picturesque, including the road from Verulam and the parks and gardens of Amanzimyama, on the approach into Tongaat. The Dudley Pringle Dam is a scenic venue north of the town; ideal for picnicking and watersports.



(Um-tin-zee-knee) is a small coastal town, that is situated almost exactly halfway along KwaZulu-Natal's north coastline, approximately 140Km north of Durban. The name is an isiZulu word, meaning place in the shade.

After the breakup of the Zulu kingdom, after the Anglo-Zulu War, Sir Garnet Wolseley created 13 'kinglets' - with two strategically located as buffer zones between Port Natal and Zululand. One of these kinglets was John Dunn, who used Mtunzini as his capital.
In 1948, 9 square kilometres of dune forests, lakes and lagoon at Mtunzini, was proclaimed a nature reserve, known as the Umlalazi Nature Reserve. This area falls under the protection of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (previously known as Natal Parks Board). The Umlalazi Lagoon is a popular tourist attraction, for watersports enthusiasts and fisherman alike. Recreational and commercial ski-boat boat fisherman also launch their boats in the lagoon and they then head for the Indian Ocean, via the mouth of the Umlalazi River.
Umlalazi Lagoon
Mtunzini is a bird watchers paradise and is renowned as one of the few places where South Africa's rarest bird of prey, the Palm Nut Vulture, is found. These birds feed on the fruit of the Rafia Palm, which produces its fruit once every twenty years, before dying. Visitors can enjoy a walk through the lush vegetation at the Rafia Palm Monument, which features a raised boardwalk, that meanders through to the magnificient palms.
Mtunzini boasts, among other attractions, pristine beaches, a 9 hole golf course at the Mtunzini Country Club, the Tradewinds Hotel, numerous Bed-and-Breakfast establishments, as well as a range of camping, caravanning and other self contained holiday accommodations.

Be warned, the beach is not protected by shark nets, due to Mtunzini's proximity to a shark breeding ground, populated by Zambezi Sharks, as well as many others. This fact notwithstanding, the waves at Mtunzini are described by surfers as being some of the better ones to surf, on the North Coast.

Richard’s Bay

Richards Bay is a city encompassing one of South Africa's largest harbours. It is situated on a 30 square kilometre lagoon, of the Mhlatuze River, on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

The town began as a makeshift harbor, that was set up by Commodore of the Cape, Sir Frederick Richards, during the Boer War of 1879. In 1935 the Richards Bay Game Sanctuary was created, to protect the ecology around the lagoon and later, by 1943 it expanded into the Richards Bay Park. The town was laid-out on the shores of the lagoon in 1954 and proclaimed a town in 1969. In 1976 Richards Bay Harbour was converted into a deep water harbor, with a railway and an oil/gas pipeline linking the port to Johannesburg.

The Richards Bay Coal Terminal is the largest coal export facility in the world, with a planned capacity of 91 million tons per year, by the first half of 2009. In 2007, annual throughput was 66.12 million tons.

Two aluminium smelters and a fertiliser plant have been erected at the harbour. Iron ore, rutile (titanium oxide) and zircon are mined from the sand dunes, close to the lagoon, by Richards Bay Minerals Richards Bay Minerals. Local exports include coal, aluminium, titanium and other heavy minerals, granite, ferrochrome, paper pulp, woodchips and phosphoric acid.

Richards Bay is a popular kite-surfing destination, thanks to consistent winds blowing from the North East.


Eshowe, Uthungulu District, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, (28°53'18?S, 1°26'54?ECoordinates: 28°53'18?S, 31°26'54?E) is the oldest town of European settlement, in Zululand. Eshowe's name is said to be inspired by the sound of wind blowing through the more than 4 km² of the indigenous Dhlinza Forest, the most important and striking feature of the town. The name is most likely to have been derived from the Zulu word for the xysmalobium shrubs, showe or shongwe.

Today Eshowe is a market town, with a 100 km radius catchment area, two shopping centres, a main bus station serving the hinterland, a major hospital, and several schools.

In 1860, Cetshwayo, then only a Zulu prince, built a kraal here and named the place Eziqwaqweni (the abode of robbers). A mission station was established at Eshowe in 1861, once permission has been obtained from the Zulu King Cetshwayo, by a Norwegian missionary, the Reverend Ommund Oftebro. Later, the station was called the KwaMondi Mission Station (place of Mondi) after the Zulu name which was given to Oftebro.

Siege of Eshowe
During the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, Colonel Charles Pearson lead the coastal column to Eshowe. This column encountered part of the Zulu army at Nyezane, but after a short battle, pushed on to the KwaMondi Mission, which was fortified and called Fort Eshowe. The forces under Colonel Pearson were besieged for 10 weeks, until relieved on April 3, by Lord Chelmsford, after the Battle of Gingindlovu.

Capital of Zululand
After the war, Eshowe was established as the capital of Zululand and the home of the British resident in Zululand, Melmoth Osborne. The nearby town of Melmoth is named after him.

In 1887 Eshowe became the capital of Zululand and was officially declared a township in 1891.

In 1947, the British Royal Family (King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret) visited and were welcomed in Eshowe by King Cyprian. The family toured the Dlinza Forest and spent a night in 'The Residency' in Eshowe.

Eshowe served as the seat of the first Black Diocesan Bishops in South Africa, of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.


  • Fort Nongqwayi - old British fort
  • Basketry museum - next to the fort
  • Vukani collection - Zulu pottery and handcrafts
  • Nearby nature conservation areas
  • Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
  • Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve
  • Itala Game Reserve
  • Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area


Empangeni is a town on the KwaZulu-Natal NorthCoast. It is approximately 160 kilometres north of Durban, situated in the hilly countryside of the Uthungulu District, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

It overlooks a flat coastal plain and the major harbour town of Richards Bay, only 15 kilometres away. The City of uMhlathuze was formed, by joining the towns of Empangeni and Richards Bay together. Transportation to other places in South Africa is provided by the N2 freeway that runs through the town.

The climate is sub-tropical, with an average temperature of 28.4°C in summer and 14.5°C in Winter. Empangeni's population is 16,500.

In 1851, the Norwegian Missionary Society established a mission station on the banks of the eMpangeni river. The river was named after the profusion of Mpange trees (Trema guineensis) growing along its banks. The mission was later moved to Eshowe, 61 kilometres north-west. In 1894 a magistracy was established. The Zululand Railway reached the town in January 1903 and linked the area to Durban and Eshowe. The government planted eucalyptus trees in 1905 as part of an experimental timber plantation. The plantation was a success and led to a large scale planting along the coastal belt. In 1906 Empangeni became a village. Rapid expansion began, when a sugar mill was erected at Felixton. The establishment of the Empangeni Sugar Mill set the area on the road to rapid development. Empangeni was officially proclaimed as a township, on 15 January 1931 and declared a borough, on 13 October 1960.

It has three major High Schools, Empangeni High, St Catherines(a catholic convent), and Felixton College along with three major primary schools, Grantham Park, Heuwelland and Empangeni Prep.

St. Lucia

The little village of St. Lucia is situated on the lagoon and forms part of the world famous St’ Lucia wetlands known as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa about 275 kilometres north of Durban (28°0'S 2°30'ECoordinates: 28°0'S 32°30'E).

It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north, to Mapelane, south of the St Lucia estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km² of pristine natural ecosystems, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The park includes the St Lucia Game Reserve, False Bay Park, St Lucia Marine Reserve, Sodwana Bay National Park, Maputaland Marine Reserve, Cape Vidal, Ozabeni, Mfabeni, Tewate Wilderness Area and Mkuze Game Reserve. The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed, effective from 1 November 2007. The word 'isimangaliso' is Zulu for 'a marvel'.


Like many tidal estuaries, the park has diverse wildlife, reflecting the concentration of diverse ecosystems, created by variations in the degree of salinity from season to season, year to year, and location to location within the park. The estuary is the largest in Africa and boasts, among other attractions, the world's largest forested sand dunes, which reach up to 180 m (600 feet). Swamps along the border of the lake, and "sponge" areas are fed by water seeping through the dunes; these provide critical refuges to freshwater life when the lake salinity is particularly high.

The park consists of five individual ecosystems. These ecosystems function totally independent yet fully integrated with each other.

The five ecosystems in the park are:

  • Marine System: Characterised by the warm Indian Ocean, containing the southernmost coral reefs in Africa, as well as sub-marine canyons and long sandy beaches.
  • Eastern Shores: A coastal dune system, consisting of high linear dunes and sub-tropical forests, grassy plains and wetlands.
Though less well known, than larger southern African parks like Kruger National Park and the Okavango Delta, St. Lucia supports more species, and for some, St. Lucia is critical habitat. These include the White-backed and Pink-backed Pelican, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Madagascar Fish Eagles, and some 530 other bird species. It is also home to the largest population of hippopotami in South African parks. Elephants were reintroduced in 2001. Two sea turtle species use the beaches for laying eggs. The coastal reserve includes not only beaches, but offshore coral reefs, and Humpback Whales migrate along this section of the coast. It is the one park in Africa, where hippopotami, crocodiles, and sharks can be found all in the same area.
Satellite image

(Left is a satellite image of the park, with the borders of several conservation areas outlined in yellow)

The park is also famous as a home to coelacanth, a fish species from millions of years ago, that was known to scientists from fossil records and presumed to have been extinct until a live specimen was found in a trawler net, in 1938, just off the African coast. Scientists have since found a number of these four-legged fish in very deep, rocky, marine environments, but it is still a very rare fish and protected under international law. On November 27, 2000, three living specimens of coelacanth were found and photographed in a submarine canyon, off the coast near Sodwana Bay, inside the St. Lucia Reserve.
The park is home to 1,200 Nile Crocodiles and 800 Hippopotami.

St. Lucia was first named in 1554, as "Rio de la Medaos do Oura" ("River of the Dows of Gold") by the survivors of the Portuguese ship Saint Benedict. At this stage, only the Tugela River mouth was known as St. Lucia. Later, in 1575, the Tugela River was named Tugela. On 13 December 1575, the day of the feast of Saint Lucy, Manuel Peresterello renamed the mouth area to Santa Lucia. In 1822, St. Lucia was proclaimed by the British as a township. In 1895, St. Lucia Game Reserve, 30 km north of the town was proclaimed. In 1971, St. Lucia Lake and the turtle beaches and coral reefs of Maputaland have been listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention). In December 1999, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Caves at Ulundi

Caves to form part of KZN heritage trail
The Ntaba Ntuzuma mountains, near Ulundi, have largely been left in peace for years, until recently, when they suddenly became a hive of activity. This is after members of the Ngobese clan went to the mountains five years ago, to rediscover and claim the caves on the side of the mountain, where their ancestors lived more than 200 years ago.

The area where the mountains and the caves are located is about 20km from Ulundi, on the outskirts of the Makhosini/Ophathe Heritage Park, where the graves of Zulu kings are situated.

The caves are located on the steep cliffs of the mountains. Plans are afoot to include the mountains and the caves into the wider tourism node, along with the heritage park and other local tourist attractions.

Sikhulisa Udelwa, an organisation in association with the Ngobese clan, says the caves were impregnable to enemies of those who lived in them. Legend has it that the clan was lured out of the caves by King Senzangakhona, father of King Shaka, whose warriors tempted them out by roasting an ox outside the caves. Five caves - with signs that they were inhabited by people many years ago - have so far been found.

The Ngobese clan will be out again, in coming years, at Ntaba Ntuzuma mountains, wanting to find more caves. Zimele Ngobese, who was part of the 1999 expedition and who is also the chairman of Sikhulisa Udelwa, said: "Among the things we found in some of the caves were the grinding stones, wooden spoons and other items, which confirmed to us the legend that our forebears were renowned brewers of beer."

"We handed these items to the Dundee museum, where they have been put on display." Ngobese said Sikhulisa Udelwa was an apolitical organization, arising from a trend in the mid-1990s, of people of different clans trying to trace their roots.

He said informal meetings culminated in their going to the Ntaba Ntuzuma mountains in 1999 and that since 2000, his clan has been holding annual traditional ceremonies there. Bongani Mdunge, co-ordinator of the Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal, said his organisation planned to make the caves part of its tourism projects. He said an information centre would be built at the heritage park and would display, among other things, items from the caves as well as information to get tourists interested. "

If funds are available, we would like to build a road to the caves that will pass through the heritage park, so that tourists can have easy access," he said.

Amafa/Heritage KZN

A Zulu clan have discovered the caves in which their ancestors lived, more than 200 years ago and plan to develop the locality into a tourist attraction. The Ngobese people have formed a committee – Sikhulisa Udelwa – which aims to raise funds to put in tourism infrastructure and make the site more easily accessible to visitors.

The caves are at Thaba Ntuzuma, a remote and rugged locality about 20 km from Ulundi, on the periphery of the eMakhosini/Ophate Heritage Park, which is being developed into a tourism node.
Amafa/Heritage KZN
Several hundred Ngobese ancestors are believed to have lived in the caves, which are on both sides of a steep gorge, the settlement begun by a distant ancestor known as Ntinda eNtuzuma. They kept cattle and grew crops but lived in the caves because they were impregnable to attack. The Ngobeses were also renowned brewers of beer.

Legend has it that Senzakakhona, father of Shaka Zulu, lured the Ngobeses from their caves some time in the 18th century by roasting an ox outside. Unable to resist the smell of the roasting meat, the Ngobeses came out to feast and were seized by Senzakakhona’s men and told that in future they would have to live out in the open and share their brewing skills with the rest of the nation. They were resettled at Nquthu (near Isandlwana), where the traditional leadership is located to this day.
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